For around 300,000 Americans living with a spinal cord injury, limited movement and hospital visits are the norm.
But according to a new study that shows a promising remedy, that could change.
Researchers from Northwestern University have developed molecules that mimic spinal cord cells, allowing them to repair and regenerate nerves in the spine.
Called “dancing molecules,” these particles match the motion, structure and receptors of spinal cord cells, allowing them to communicate with each other.
In the study, published by the journal Science, the molecules were injected into mice with severe spinal cord injuries.
The molecules send two signals. The first regenerates axons, which facilitate communication between the body and brain. The second causes cell growth, which reverses damage to injured sites.
The results were stunning: Nerve endings in the spine regenerated, blood vessels reformed to strengthen the injury and scar tissue diminished.
The key is the “dance” that the molecules perform. They move rapidly, matching the movement of the targeted cells, until they partner up and dance in unison, allowing the molecules to send regenerative signals and start the healing process.
After 12 weeks, the molecules disappear into the body as nutrients without any noticeable side effects.
The hope? Researchers say this therapy could someday heal paralysis due to injury or disease. If that wasn’t miraculous enough, the treatment might also be able to repair the brain.
Time will tell whether the effects of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s could eventually be reversed by the regenerative molecules.
And if so, these “dancing molecules” could help thousands of people get back on their feet and dancing again.